Grab a Graphic Novel: Amazing Manga
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Grab a Graphic Novel: Amazing Manga

We’re highlighting our graphic novel collection by exploring tried-and-true cartoon classics, as well as fresh-off-the-press new releases. Pick up a graphic novel today!

Our Grab a Graphic Novel blog series presents our latest reads from the aforementioned collection. Available at all five libraries, the collection encompasses comics, manga and, of course, graphic novels — anything that uses pictures as an intrinsic part of the storytelling process.

This month, we’re reading all about Manga!

A small collection of manga available (Davis Library)

The term manga generally refers to any comic, graphic novel, or non-animated cartoon originating from the country of Japan. Just as American comics span multiple genres, manga is drawn and written for all tastes and ages, ranging from young adult fantasy to adult crime dramas.

One of the key features of manga is that the pages and panels read from right to left, the opposite of how we read books in the West. You can also expect to see references to Japanese culture, from the food that characters eat, to school holidays and folklore. The popularity of manga has exploded in the West over the past couple decades (thanks in part to the success of anime, Japanese animated cartoons), which is a testament to how relatable these stories and characters are to western audiences.

Today we’ll be highlighting popular manga series, both new and old, from our Junior and Young Adult collections.

Chi’s Sweet Home

Description: Chi is a mischievous newborn American shorthair who, while on a leisurely stroll with her family, found herself lost. When we found Chi it was clear to us she was completely distraught as she longed for the warmth and protection of her mother. Feeling sympathy for the little furball, we quietly whisked her away inviting her into our small apartment home… where pets are strictly not permitted.

Unlike other publishers, Vertical Inc. has formatted this originally Japanese work to read left-to-right, making it ideal for early readers. This series is delightful in the way that it portrays Chi’s perspective, from her distress at being bathed to her confusion over the exact purpose of a “litterbox”.

Check out Volume 1

Pokémon Adventures

Description: Red doesn’t just want to train Pokémon, he wants to be their friend too. Bulbasaur and Poliwhirl seem game. But independent Pikachu won’t be so easy to win over!

Everyone’s heard about Pokémon, it’s got a tv show, games, movies, books, and of course, comic books! Pokémon Adventures differs from the television show as it is inspired by and more directly follows the plot of the video games. This series is our first example of shonen, which is the Japanese word for “boy” or “youth”, typically featuring a lot of action and humor (think Avengers and Spider-man). This genre is tailored to teens, age 12-18, though this series is also marketed toward younger children, as you might expect of the Pokémon franchise.

Check out Volume 1

Kingdom Hearts 2

Description: Based on the mega-popular video game! In the quiet little hamlet of Twilight Town, there lives a boy named Roxas. He and his friends Hayner, Pence and Olette are tying to enjoy their final days of summer vacation, when strange things begin to happen.

Kingdom Hearts is a popular series that combines the Disney and Final Fantasy franchises. This manga series borrows heavily from the video games, but in a way that readers can easily follow without knowing anything of the games, or even its component franchises. Children who may have played or seen the games will love seeing characters they recognize, and even younger readers will delight in appearances from beloved Disney characters Donald Duck and Goofy. The style of this series is light-hearted, and the first volume in particular is reminiscent of a children’s detective novel.

Check out Volume 1

Dragon Ball

Description: Dragon Ball introduces a young monkey-tailed boy named Goku (a wry update of the classic Chinese “Monkey King” legend), whose quiet life changes when he meets a girl named Bulma who is on a quest to collect seven “Dragon Balls.” If she gathers them all, an incredibly powerful dragon will appear and grant her one wish.

Dragon Ball is likely one of the most culturally significant manga series in existence, especially paired with its sequel series: Dragon Ball Z. Dragon Ball is characterized by high action, exaggerated feats of strength and speed, puns and potty humor (essentially the epitome of shonen manga). The protagonist, Goku, is young, full of optimism, self confidence and naivete, and is accompanied by a fun cast of friends and rivals. While the series goes on to explore darker themes of loss and failure, the early volumes are incredibly light-hearted and just plain fun to read.

As a fun tid-bit, if you skip to the back of most manga, you’ll see a page which informs you “you’re reading the wrong way!” This page usually includes a diagram of how to read each page in the book, and in the case of Dragon Ball volume one, an explanation of why the book was written and published that way.

Check out Volume 1

One Piece

Description: Join Monkey D. Luffy and his swashbuckling crew in their search for the ultimate treasure, One Piece! As a child, Monkey D. Luffy dreamed of becoming King of the Pirates. But his life changed when he accidentally gained the power to stretch like rubber… at the cost of never being able to swim again!

One Piece is the best selling manga series for eleven consecutive years, and the best selling manga series of all time. Boasting an iconic art style, a highly imaginative world, childish and light-hearted humor as well as its eccentric characters, One Piece is a fun read for young teens and adults.

Check out Volume 1

Tokyo Ghoul

Description: Ghouls live among us, the same as normal people in every way—except their craving for human flesh. Ken Kaneki is an ordinary college student until a violent encounter turns him into the first half-human half-ghoul hybrid. Trapped between two worlds, he must survive Ghoul turf wars, learn more about Ghoul society and master his new powers.

Tokyo Ghoul is one of those hard-to-place series. While found in our Young Adult collection, the series is very dark, thoughtful and politically complex in a way that you’d almost expect it to be found in our Adult collection. The protagonist, Ken Kaneki, is a college student who becomes a cannibalistic ghoul and has to find his place between two worlds: that of humans and ghouls. There is graphic violence throughout the series, and more than a few deaths. Despite this, the violence is rarely gratuitous, and the series is defined more by its themes of personal growth, reflection, and coping with loss than by bloodshed. The full story is told across two series: Tokyo Ghoul and Tokyo Ghoul: re, both of which are available at your local Plano Public Library.

Check out Volume 1

Food Wars

Description: Soma Yukihira’s old man runs a small family restaurant in the less savory end of town. Aiming to one day surpass his father’s culinary prowess, Soma hones his skills day in and day out until one day, out of the blue, his father decides to enroll Soma in a classy culinary school! Can Soma really cut it in a school that prides itself on a 10 percent graduation rate? And can he convince the beautiful, domineering heiress of the school that he belongs there at all?!

Food Wars is the manga equivalent of your favorite cooking shows, like Chopped, Iron Chef, or Guy’s Grocery Games. Following an aspiring chef, the series takes place in an elite culinary school where our protagonist, Yukihira Soma, battles the best chefs of his generation to prove that creativity and effort are the keys to good cooking, and success. While the series has tons of positive and uplifting messages, it also features over the top, and at times sensuous reactions to delicious food. The eponymous “food wars” refer to cooking challenges between two or more chefs that make up the “action” of this series. The characters act as interesting takes on existing tropes in shonen manga (the copy cat, the rival, the insecure-but-supremely-talented apprentice, etc.) and a surprisingly thorough examination of the dishes the chefs cook – the series employs a consultant to provide accurate and in-depth analysis of the food featured in the manga. This series is a must read for teen and adult foodies and comic lovers.

Check out Volume 1

Attack on Titan

Description: In this post-apocalytpic sci-fi story, humanity has been devastated by the bizarre, giant humanoids known as the Titans. Little is known about where they came from or why they are bent on consuming mankind. Seemingly unintelligent, they have roamed the world for years, killing everyone they see. For the past century, what’s left of man has hidden in a giant, three-walled city. People believe their 100-meter-high walls will protect them from the Titans, but the sudden appearance of an immense Titan is about to change everything.

Attack on Titan is a post-apocalyptic manga featuring political intrigue, man-eating giants and what can only be described as spider-man-esque zip-lining. The series protagonist, Eren Jaegar, is determined to join the Scouting Division of his walled city’s military, so that he can venture into the outside world and bring the fight to the enormous titans that terrorize his home. The series has a number of twists and turns, with high stakes and a consistently dark and dire tone throughout. A must-read for fans of gritty political intrigue and YA adventure.

Check out Volume 1

Another collection of manga (Harrington Library)

As we talk about different graphic novels, we can only feature a fraction of the awesome works within our collection. We’d love to hear from you as well! What is your favorite manga graphic novel? Leave a comment with your own recommendation!

For more reading suggestions, check out the posts in our Plano Reads tag. We also have several virtual Book Clubs to appeal to any kind of reader.

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